VONA, the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color in the nation, brings writers of color from the margins to a community where their work is centralized and honored. At VONA, developing writers find a place where they can:
· Explore their craft in an atmosphere of support and understanding
· Exchange ideas and inspirations with established writers
· Gain empowerment to move from VONA to a writer's life with authority and confidence.
Who We Are....
VONA was founded by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz and Diem Jones in 1999. Each envisioned an arts organization that could change the landscape for writers of color by supporting individual writer growth, creating a platform for community engagement and providing a workshop and mentor focus to expand writing opportunities. Over 2,000 writers from around the globe have participated in VONA (www.voicesatvona.org).
VONA makes its home at the University of California at Berkeley and at the University of Miami and offers workshops in fiction, poetry, memoir, political content, LGBTQ narrative, graphic novel and a residency. VONA also hosts a free faculty reading, supports alumni events in cities across the country, provides an online forum for literary opportunities and launches community writing programs and events.
The distinguished faculty has included: Chris Abani, Suheir Hammad, Ruth Forman, Faith Adiele, Cristina García, Chitra Divakaruni, Tananarive Due, Walter Mosley, Willie Perdomo, Patricia Smith, Junot Díaz, Staceyann Chin, Nikky Finney, Jimmy Santiago Baca, David Mura, Tayari Jones, Mat Johnson, M. Evelina Galang and many more. To see a more complete faculty list click here.
More than 200 alums have published books. Many alums also establish presses, create anthologies, receive literary prizes, participate in fellowships, teach in academic programs and offer community workshops.
What Your Support Will Do...
For ten years with sponsorship from the University of San Francisco (USF) VONA provided two weeks of workshops yearly. With changing USF priorities VONA lost sponsorship and moved to UC Berkeley in 2008. This increased their facility costs forcing VONA to offer only a single week and raise attendance fees for writers. VONA Faculty continue to receive very modest compensation and VONA staff works seasonally often donating their time to ensure smooth program functioning. VONA continues to receive record number of applications and is dedicated to sustaining and enlivening generations of writers of color by building a resilient and thriving organization. We are therefore seeking funding to
• Support administrative continuity, functioning and resiliency
• Secure a location for two weeks of workshops
• Provide greater scholarship opportunities
• Increase Faculty compensation
The word from our community ...
“Being part of a community of writers of color liberated me to focus on being a better writer rather than defending my work. This is invaluable.”
“Seeing other writers of color…with similar dreams, seeing each other take our own writing seriously is really important in growing my vision as writer”
“I asked Chris Abani why tears are transformative. He explained… how rather than circling around issues and stories… deep within us that as writers we need to be on the edge pushing ourselves to go directly to the heart of the story, to the story inside us -- even if the story is something we hesitate to write.”
“This experience exceeded my expectations on every level. The input from the workshop leader on technique and taking the work forward was amazing. The time and effort that the participants put in to reading and commenting on our manuscripts is priceless. We all walked away with concrete ideas for telling our stories better...”